The project goal was to create an office headquarters for a clean technology venture capital firm in Menlo Park, CA. Because the site is on some of the most expensive commercial real estate in North America, optimizing use of the property was critical. The program includes 12,500 SF of office space in two stories over a podium to provide parking for fifty cars. A conditional use permit was required for this total building area. Strict setbacks and a height limit meant working within a restricted zoning envelope.
By creating their own building, the firm had the opportunity to express their culture and values through the design. Gardens, transparency and wood finishes create a warm, intimate work environment, comfortable for employees.Strong, accent colors express the company’s reputation for bold risk taking in major, disruptive clean technologies. Fine, straight-grained, wire-brushed wood finishes form a warm, elegant and understated feeling in keeping with the firm’s sophisticated analysis of emerging markets.
The project creates gardens in most of the available open space. Planted screening and vegetated roofs are used to create a garden setting that the transparent interior can enjoy while maintaining privacy from adjacent properties.
The gardens are designed to envelop the building to create intimate landscaped views from interior spaces. The podium garden above the parking garage features an intensive garden with seating, planted screens and a trellis structure. Plantings on the second floor and roof employ a system of vegetated roof trays. The planted 2nd floor terrace, seen through full height glass, is detailed for an immediate and intimate connection to the garden.
Roof gardens are a visual asset to the neighbors whose close proximity to the project was a concern. The generous proportion of green spaces played a major role in incentivizing the neighbor’s approval for the project.
Set in the tight site closely surrounded by residential neighbors, another project goal was to minimize disturbance during construction. For this reason and because the site had little space for construction staging, the building is made of prefabricated components, including structural steel modules stacked by crane on the concrete parking podium.
Being a light weight, prefabricated building with a special need for flexibility meant that the extensive roof gardens had to be particularty light to maintain a relatively transparent interior without overly imposing shear walls and braces. A system of vegetated roof trays with light engineered soil mitigates the loading on the building structure; thus unimpeding garden views and interior flexibility.
As the headquarters of a venture firm, the building needs to temporarily house and incubate young companies. Because these start-ups can evolve (or fail) quickly, the interior needs to adapt to changing needs. The building can be reconfigured through a modular system of interior demountable partitions and glass partitions. Building services for each modular space are separately programmed and controlled by hand-held, wireless android devices.